Wild Worlds Come to Life in Reid Park Zoo

Will D
December 1, 2022

Growing up as a kid I always loved the zoo and went regularly with my family or just my mom. I loved seeing so many families with smiling kids and the pungent smell of animal feces that hits the nose right as you walk into the entrance to the zoo. Animals have always been a huge part of my life.  Cats, dogs, bunnies, fish, and geckos all came and went from my household. A zoo is a place where I can go and be free and see parts of the world through animals. Whenever I travel I try to go to any zoo in that area, I’ve been to the Woodland Park Zoo, San Diego Zoo, Honolulu zoo, and others.

College can be stressful and cause you to not go out and see the city you live in. I am so glad that I was able to have some free time and visit a place that I have always loved. When I found out about the Reid Park Zoo I was so excited to visit another zoo. I couldn’t wait to see which animals and creatures this zoo had to offer.

Walking through the front entrance I saw kids’ faces light up and run over to see the hyenas, the zoo brings so much joy to parents and their kids. You walk into the front of the zoo and are left with many choices on where to go first. You can go to the left and see the hyenas sleeping in bundles for warmth and the lemurs as they run all over their cage. Or to the right and see the anteater strutting up and down their exhibit looking for food. I went to the right because after the anteater there are the squirrel monkeys which were highly spoken about by the CEO of the zoo, Nancy Kluge. Nancy and I spoke over email many times and she was always very informative about the zoo and passionate about the animals and their wellbeing. Through an interview, I was able to gain more knowledge about the zoo including information on the squirrel monkeys, lions, and rhinos.

Each exhibit is well kept and maintained by the wonderful staff who always had a smile on their face! When walking along the path towards the squirrel monkeys I saw almost every animal outside enjoying the Tucson sun. The capybara which can be described as a large hamster, sitting there minding his own business getting a nice morning sun tan. On my way down the paved road to the squirrel monkey, I saw the tapir which, to be honest, I don’t fully understand what type of animal it is. Not being an animal expert I would describe the tapir as a hippo with a nose like an elephant, very amazing how an animal like this is found. The tapir was walking around its enclosure and even dipped into the water.

Crazy Squirrel Monkeys

Finally, I made it to the squirrel monkeys. Sadly, one of the monkeys had died in recent years but the monkeys were still enthusiastic. There were two of them and they were hungry. Fun fact: they love pumpkins. They were both taking turns digging their hands into a jar that was filled with pumpkin pudding and pumpkin. Both of the monkeys loved to run around and swing from rope to rope. They played around just like anyone would with their siblings when they were young. Trying to bother each other and get the other mad and then run away. It is remarkable how fast and easy these monkeys can swing. Their hands are tiny around the size of a golf ball. I am glad Nancy recommended the squirrel monkeys because they were truly an entertaining sight to see and reminded me of me and my brother. If and when you come to the Reid Park Zoo you must visit these adorable guys and their outgoing personalities.

The Mighty Lions

After visiting the squirrel monkeys you have to find your way to the magnificent lions. The adult male lion seems to assert his dominance by standing and laying down on the highest perch you can find. If you are lucky like I was, you can experience the lions playing with the balls that they are given in their exhibit. This reminds me almost of my cat at home playing with any toys they can get their hands on.

The female lion seems to be a little more standoffish laying in the shade but she always had her daring eyes on the male. She has the natural protective instinct to protect and hunt for her family. I came to the zoo very early so I did not see the lions eat but if you can I’ve heard it’s awesome. It’s called puzzle feeding which means they must work for there food, this is so they experience and have to figure out the puzzle to get their food so they don’t lose their hunting instincts.

Once you’re done Visiting the lovely lions you must find your way over to the otters. They are like a circus at the zoo.

MUST SEE!!! Go right next door after visiting the lions to visit the otters. They are taught by their mothers and siblings how to roll around, spin, and flip in the water. They’re very enjoyable to watch as they give you a quick little show-up and down the glass. I was able to see one do flips after flips right past me and then run back into his hole so we could either eat or sleep. They do whatever they have on their mind.

The Rare Rhinos

Find your way to visit the rare and endangered rhinos. There was only one Rhino out when I visited and she goes by the name Yeginba. Even with her being 45 years old she is full of energy. Running around the exhibit and showing off her great horns. For such a powerful-looking animal I was surprised when she ran over to get food that had a lot of vegetarian options. There is also a younger rhino at the zoo but they only go into their exhibit one at a time. So if Yeginba is out the younger one isn’t. This is due to the fact the younger rhino may not know his limits around the elderly and hurt Yeginba. When speaking with Nancy she spoke about about the rhino. Speaking on how the Reid Park Zoo has a connection and was able to have such a rare species at there zoo. These rhinos are not allowed at every zoo because of how endangered they are so they are a must see!

The rhinos live near some other huge animals including the giraffe and elephants. You must find your way to the elephant exhibit to see the family in action. I was able to get a photo of one of the older siblings playing with a stick with his trunk and eating the leaves off the end of it. The family all stay in a herd together and you can see them teaching the one-year-old baby how to live the life of an elephant. Check the zoos face-book account to find more information on the elephants. They show the baby how to use his trunk effectively to get food. Giraffes are one-of-a-kind animals. I was able to see them traverse around the exhibit with their long legs and reach their neck up to high points to eat food stuffed with leaves. It was an eye-opening experience to see how huge and lengthy giraffes are as this was my first time seeing these beautiful animals.

More Fun at the End

Before you leave, go and visit the gift shop. If I wasn’t a broke college kid like most of us down at U of A, I would have got one of these adorable stuffed animals to cuddle with back in my dorm. The stuffed lemurs have velcro hands that you can hang somewhere, or you can find cool shirts with elephants and giraffes on the front and back. If you’re into jewelry and that kind of stuff they have it all, with elephant and giraffe earrings. Don’t forget that the zoo means that you’ll be walking around for a long time so stop by and get food. I got a delicious warm pretzel with cheese which was just one of many things on their menu. This pretzel made my day reminding me of home and how me and my mom used to make pretzels. It’s so soft and warm and the cheese is delicious, it’s a must have if your hungry. In general, it’s great snack on food and if it’s nearly lunchtime they have great lunch options too. If you don’t trust me, you must trust all the other great reviews all over the internet. Come to the Reid Park Zoo!


Will Gillespie is a freshman and majoring in engineering at UArizona.